We have developed a specific SaaS SEO methodology that addresses the particular requirements of the software as a service industry. This post draws on our experience of working with clients who are selling digital services, who are addressing highly niche markets, and who are operating in highly competitive arenas.
Years of experience has taught us that SEO for SaaS clients has its own unique requirements:
- Many SaaS providers are competing in a market with much larger direct or indirect competitors with greater market share. Developing a nimble SEO strategy for SaaS may focus more on high intention phrases rather than just high volume.
- There is greater competition in the SEO space with indirect competitors including SaaS review aggregators like G2 Space and Capterra, so the SEO focus may be to differentiate content to compete for visibility
- SaaS businesses are comfortable with measuring and forecasting and focusing on business OKRs and KPIs, and require SEO campaigns that flex to meet those specific requirements.
Defining your top level SaaS SEO strategy
Successful SEO doesn’t happen in isolation. Google is getting smarter, and now is the time to rethink your overarching SEO strategy. Be sure to read our Strategy Director Ben Wood’s insightful post on rethinking your approach to SEO.
In brief you need to have a strategy in place with clear cross-channel plans.
As a first step in developing this strategy, begin with a clear discussion of your business and overall marketing objectives – asking yourself the question, what are you hoping to achieve through digital marketing?
For example, it could be that you are looking to generate MQLs (Marketing Qualified Lead) through website users submitting a demo request form, downloading a technical spec, or calling your customer service line.
Whatever they are, get them defined & agreed, including targets for improvement over the year.
And it is no longer possible to run SEO campaigns in isolation. The very first step is to pull your SEO, paid media, social, PR, creative & technical teams together to discuss the objectives & develop a cross-channel strategy on how to achieve them.
The SEO research process
The first part of the process is to undertake research assessing your market, audience, competition and brand perception.
You are very likely to have a wealth of information at your disposal already.
In addition to your existing resources, it’s important to consider who your online competitors keeping in mind these can sometimes be different to the competitors that the leadership team in your business may be aware of.
You need to work out who you will you be competing with on social media and in the search engines (both organic and paid.)
A research tool like SEMrush is a great starting point. Using your own domain name, the SEMrush database will report on your main organic competitors based on the keywords your site is currently optimised for. This report will identify the keywords you have in common, the keywords your competitors are optimising for, and the competition levels of those competitors.
Screencloud is a SaaS digital signage company. Here is an analysis of their main organic competitors, and organic keyword levels.
The next step, once you have the key topics, phrases and words that you want to rank in the search engine results page (SERPs), you can use SEMrush or another competitor analysis tool to work out who is bidding on those keywords from a paid perspective and who is ranking well organically. Ensure that you do this separately for each geographical location you are looking to target. For example, your online competitors may be very different in the US compared to the UK.
Your competitor list is so important, because if you don’t then take the time to review their ads, landing pages, content, domain authority, website experience etc, then it’s impossible to understand how to beat them. Here is a guide to identifying your online competitors.
Your market research will give you a better understanding of search behaviour, and answer questions like:
- What’s happening in the industry right now?
- Who are the key players?
- Are there any trends to be aware of?
Your next step is to review is brand perception & awareness. How well-known is your brand compared to others, and in which markets? We have written guides for you to use Google Trends to research interest in your brand in comparison to competitors over time. And again, tools like SEMrush can provide you with branded keyword search volumes so you can see how you stack up.
All of your market research hinges on a robust understanding of your target market and customer personas. You can use our free guide & template for creating your customer personas if you don’t already have these in place. By gathering together both quantitative (location, age, income, job title) and qualitative (goals, challenges, priorities, interests) data you can build up a picture of your target customer. For example, as a SaaS business, knowing your audience values customer support over a competitive price point would be very valuable information.
Full funnel keyword strategy focused on your SaaS client
1. Identify awareness/top of funnel keywords & content
This content will attract potential customers as they begin to research solutions to problem, and will often be in the form of guides, articles or resources.
At the top of the funnel the user isn’t looking for a specific tool or solution, they are simply looking for help and guidance. This traffic is less likely to convert into a customer, but you can capture prospects via an email newsletter, content upgrade or retargeting pixel.
One potential SEO strategy for this point in the funnel could be to trigger your own company’s featured snippets.
For example, the search phrase “how to project manage a remote team” demonstrates a high level of intent and problem a user is experiencing.
In the Google search results, HydraCloud’s helpful content ranks top organically in the form of a featured snippet:
If you want to learn more have written a guide to triggering featured snippets.
2. Work out what the users in the middle of the funnel or consideration stage are searching
This content will capture users who have become aware of a solution to their problem but prior to them researching specific product to meet those requirements. At this point you want to educate your potential buyer on benefits, integrations and so on – mapping keywords to your homepage, features pages, solution pages. They may be searching for something like “project management tools”. A key thing to note here is that some of these keywords may serve results that are from sites that have posted round-ups of the best tools of that particular type or that are actually more informational content than product or features pages:
These middle funnel searches usually fall into one of the following types:
- Product category – Your most basic searches like “project management software”
- Product category comparison – “organisational planning software vs workforce planning software”
- Solution/industry – More specific searches that identify the buyer’s industry “project management tools for programmers”
- Features – Specific features that the user is looking for “project management tool with file sharing”
- Integrations – How the software plugs into other tools “Help desk software with Salesforce integration”
3. Build comparison content that helps you stand out against both direct and indirect competitors
At the bottom of the funnel, the conversion stage, the buyer is now fully aware of the problem they’re facing, the solution they will use to solve it, and likely some (or all) of the specific products that meet their needs. At this point you need to:
- Attract product-aware traffic
- Inject your SaaS product into the consideration set (if it isn’t already)
- Highlight the key features or considerations that make your product a better fit than competitors
- Differentiate your product category (and your specific product) from alternative solutions
These keywords generally fall into a few high-level buckets:
- Comparisons (X vs Y)
- Alternatives/competitors (Y Alternatives)
Read our guide on how to conduct expert keyword research for further information on the tools & techniques to use to get the most out of your keyword strategy.
And don’t forget to research search intent for your target terms (what pages are ranking well and so Google deems to be relevant for the user’s search). Don’t just go after the biggest volume keywords – make sure that they are relevant by viewing the search results in comparison to your SaaS product and the content you are planning to include on your website.
Another important point to note is that what brand managers or others who work in your SaaS company think your tool or platform should be referred to as can be very different to what your customer are actually searching for. Finding a balance can be quite a challenge but backing up your SEO/content decisions with search volume data, and highlighting the opportunity that ranking for relevant keywords will bring in terms of leads, usually helps to assuage any worries about using certain words or phrases.
Once you have your keywords and content mapped out, use Moz’s on page SEO best practice guide to ensure your content is well-optimised.
And make sure you review the content that is ranking well on competitor websites for your target terms so you can benchmark and improve on that content in order to (hopefully!) move above them in the SERPs.
SEO and the intersection of UX
Google made a major announcement on 28th May 2020 detailing an impending algorithm update focusing on measuring page experience for users. We have written a guide to the Google Page Experience Update. This update won’t be live until some point in 2021, and Google will be giving six months’ warning before it happens, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to improve your pages and avoid a rankings hit.
The focus of this update is around Core Web Vitals, including speed (loading performance, time to interactivity) and visual stability.
However, whilst your technical performance is now also going to be an SEO ranking signal, you should also work with a UX expert to review the user journeys through the site, call to actions, and key pages such as the homepage and product landing pages. By improving user engagement with the site, as measured by signals ls such as dwell time (how long someone stays on your page/site) and bounce rate, you can also have a positive impact on rankings, organic traffic & leads. Google considers how engaged users are – the higher-quality the engagement, the better the experience for users.
Take a look at our post on great website design for B2B for further guidance & inspiration.
Technical SEO factors
Tied in closely with website experience is technical SEO. As described above, page speed/load time is one of the key factors here.
But alongside this, you need to ensure that Google is able to effectively crawl and index your website. There’s are a wide range of technical elements that you need to check, investigate, and if required, fix in order to implement a successful SaaS SEO strategy.
These technical aspects include:
How your website handles URL parameters
How your website optimises the Google crawl budget
How your website handles 301 redirects
How your website handles canonical tags
And if you are aiming to target various international market, international SEO considerations will be an essential part of your technical SEO activity.
Build your SaaS website’s authority
Site authority is another cornerstone of any SEO strategy, and essentially boils down to the number & quality of backlinks that you have pointing from other sites back to yours. Building your backlink profile is hugely important, especially if you are a newer SaaS company, but you need to focus on quality links rather than the quantity. Here is a guide to what a bad link looks like when link building for SEO.
There are a number of proven of ways in which you can build links, most notably and sustainably by creating expert-led, useful content and through digital PR campaigns to generate coverage and links on relevant websites within your industry. We have produced a guide and template for developing your content marketing strategy.
When it comes to SaaS-specific link building a few practical recommendations for you to consider:
- Integration Partnerships – If your SaaS product integrates with other tools, you could connect with the companies your tool integrates with and see how you can get added to their directory for integrations.
- Strategic Partnerships – Maybe your platform doesn’t integrate with other tools directly, but if used in conjunction with other tools then perhaps users could experience a better outcome. Write a blog post about this tip on your site and then reach out to the other companies you mentioned to see if they’d be willing to link to the piece you wrote about them and share it on their social media pages.
- Exclusive Data – SaaS products often collect a lot of really interesting data that can be structured and leveraged to provide value for others. Some of this data could be organised into interesting topics that help you tell a story on your site.
- It would also be worthwhile researching those “best tools for X” lists that I referenced earlier and seeing if your platform or software can get added to any relevant lists (which will likely include a link back to your site!)
Learn more about our SaaS SEO services
We work with a range of SaaS businesses, and would be happy to discuss with you how we can help you to grow your B2B software or technology business.
- Take a look at our SaaS case studies
- Take a look at our industry awards for our B2B marketing services
- Review the content we have produced specifically for B2B marketers
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